Art 💙🏳️‍🌈

Ambulances & Programming

Building Railator & Pathfinder

dev

A while ago, I built Railator, for fun and to give me a chance to learn a few new things. It’s a very simple progressive web app that pulls train data from National Rail APIs and presents it. Much more recently, I added Pathfinder to it, which is a London-only tool to find paths (duh, really?) between any two given tram, DLR, tube, overground, or some rail stations. Again, this was mostly for fun and because it might help me learn a few more things, but I did have some ideas about how it could end up being real-world helpful for me. It turned out to be way more complicated than I was expecting.

node.js vue.js ruby
Read More

Why We Do It

999

Content note: mentions of suicide, serious injury, domestic violence, neonatal death

When I was writing my last post, I was feeling a bit down and fed up after a run of shifts where not much happened, taking lots of non-emergency, low-acuity calls. This post is the complete opposite: this shift gave me a reminder of why we do what we do — because we save lives and help people.

This is the story of a shift where everything happened.

success-stories
Read More

Do we really help?

999

My last couple of weeks at work haven’t had anything really out of the ordinary in them. It’s been a very ordinary run of chest pains, back pains, abdominal pains, breathing problems, bleeding, and passed-out drunk people. It’s left me thinking about impostor syndrome — something I come across both as a developer and now as a 999 call handler — and, more widely, about something I’m calling organisational self-importance syndrome: how the ambulance service often likes to think of itself as the people swooping in to save the day. It’s not the only kind of organisation guilty of that, but there’s something about being an emergency service that seems to give it that kind of air.

impostor-syndrome
Read More

Public Access

999

Public-access lifesaving equipment is not a new idea: life rings by lakes and rivers are a very common sight, as are (to a lesser extent) things like throw lines and public SOS telephones. That said, awareness of and access to public-access defibrillators is still relatively new in comparison, and it’s really only the last few years that we’ve seen any kind of rise in awareness and availability. Even newer than that are other types of public-access lifesaving kits that we’re only just starting to see: things like trauma kits, first aid kits, etc.

first-aid public-access
Read More

Nothing Special, Everything Special

999

When it comes to politics, I make no apologies for being a staunch lefty. I support people being individuals, with the rights to live however suits them. My outlook is very much that if you’re not hurting anyone, why should anyone mind? When it comes to healthcare, I’m eternally grateful for the NHS and I always struggle to understand why the US allows its healthcare system to be so broken.

Now that I work in the NHS, I’ve had the advantage of seeing it as both patient and provider. With the government’s recent 1% pay rise announcement — much touted by them as very generous in times of austerity and simultaneously condemned by the public as a shameful display of national gratitude to a service that has carried us through the pandemic — I find myself conflicted. As a patient and a member of the public, the NHS is incredible. As a provider, I find it more complicated.

nhs covid-19
Read More

Trust the Uniform

999

The recent disappearance, later confirmed to be abduction and murder, of Sarah Everard in London has thrown me. It threw me early on, just after she’d been reported missing, before anyone knew it was a murder; the confirmation that it was murder (and that the suspect is a serving police officer, no less) only made things worse. I don’t really know why — there’s nothing really unusual about this case (other than the serving-police-officer thing, but even that’s not unheard of) — but much of the UK seems to be feeling something similar.

trust safety abuse
Read More

The Ones We Remember

999

Content note: trauma, graphic description

“What’s the worst call you’ve ever had?”

Don’t be that person. I’ll give you one of my pre-prepared Funny Calls™, and then be very wary of ever talking to you about my job again. The honest answer is the one that’ll leave you wondering if I’ve lost my mind and all sense of normality, and how I’m still doing the job. It’s the same for everyone in the emergency services.

Read More

Building Codidact: Not Just Tech

dev

I’ve been working on Codidact for the last 18 months or so. We’ve built up from nothing, planned what we wanted to do, put systems up, started work, changed course, re-started work, switched systems, and welcomed and lost a whole load of team members along the way. We’ve served just under 5 million requests and 50GB of data in the last month — which is not vast scale, but it’s certainly much bigger scale than anything else anyone on our team has worked with. We’ve all learned a lot along the way: our team is still small, and we’ve all got other commitments; while everyone has things they’re good at, we’ve all had to learn bits of other areas to be able to support each other as well.

codidact sysadmin scale team-building
Read More

Mental Health and 999 — not always the best way

999

Content note: mental health, suicide

Mental health is often spoken about as though it’s one cohesive, neatly-packaged topic, in the same way that a physical illness like “breathing difficulties” might be. When mental health and ambulance services end up on the news, the common refrain is that “mental health calls to 999 are on the rise”. Which… is not wrong, but it’s like saying “calls to 999 for medical conditions are on the rise” — it’s not specific enough to talk about such a broad topic. What kind of medical conditions? What kind of mental health conditions?

mental-health misconceptions
Read More

Not an Emergency — or the "999 doesn't think I'm worth it" effect

999

I’ve written before about public misconceptions when calling 999. I had planned to touch on this there, but there’s enough nuance and detail that it deserves its own post.

When you call an ambulance, your call is triaged based on your current condition. If it’s not critical, an ambulance may not be sent — instead, you’ll be directed to contact 111 for further assessment or advice, or to talk to your GP or make your own way to hospital. This can sometimes come across as though the operators at 999, or the ambulance service in general, doesn’t care about your problem; the reality is exactly the opposite.

non-emergency urgent-care 111
Read More

Misconceptions about calling 999

999

People call 999 for all sorts of reasons. Most calls are genuine, even if misguided; fortunately, it’s only a very small number of calls that are made in bad faith.

That said, we can’t handle everything. Folks often see 999 as being the one-stop shop to call to Deal With It when the proverbial has hit the fan, which isn’t always the case. Sometimes we’re not trained to handle something. Sometimes we don’t have the right access. Sometimes we’re not the right service.

So here we have: Common Public Misconceptions About Calling 999.

emergency misconceptions
Read More